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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

 

If I Stay
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some sexual material
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

Foxcatcher
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some drug use and a scene of violence
Release Date:
November 21, 2014

 

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Lowest Recommended Age: Adult
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Release Date:
August 22, 2014

Rosewater
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language including some crude references, and violent content
Release Date:
November 14, 2014

 

Into the Storm
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense destruction and peril, and language including some sexual references
Release Date:
August 8, 2014

The Cat’s Meow

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2002

Peter Bogdanovich is still in love with the movies.

He has paid tribute to classic movies sucessfully (“Paper Moon,” “The Last Picture Show,” “What’s Up Doc?”) and unsuccessfully (“At Long Last Love”). At his best, he is able to not just salute, but evoke the mood and spirit of Hollywood’s golden era of innoocence and magic. At his worst, he is so caught up in his fantasies of the good old days that he becomes overly obscure and self-referential. This movie shows him at both extremes.

Once upon a time, the richest man in America was William Randolph Hearst. If anyone thinks of him today, it is either as the man who inspired “Ctizen Kane” or the grandfather of Patty Hearst, kidnapped heiress and actress in offbeat John Waters movies.

Think of Hearst as Bill Gates crossed with Michael Eisner (the head of ABC/Disney). Hearst was the wealthiest man in the United States and his newspapers were the primary source of information and enertainment for most Americans. He never divorced his wife, but he had a love affair with silent screen actress Marion Davies for 37 years.

Hearst was more powerful than anyone can ever be again because he controlled the newspapers and the newspapers were the only source of news. If he wanted a story told a particular way — or not told at all — that is what happened. When one of Hollywood’s biggest names, Thomas Ince (the man who created the Western) died after a visit to Hearst’s yacht, it was officially recorded and reported in Hearst’s newspapers as “natural causes.” Rumors, or as Bogdanovich says, “whispers” continued to circulate, and this movie tells the story that is whispered most often.

The movie is a loving recreation of the era with impeccable performances by Eddie Izzard as Charlie Chaplin and Joanna Lumley (of “Absolutely Fabulous”) as sensational novelist Elinor Glyn. Izzard has one of the most difficult challenges an actor can face — portraying someone whose face and manner are so well documented that they will be familiar to many viewers. Those who do think they know Chaplin know the character he portrayed, or perhaps the brilliant, Oscar-nominated performance by Robert Downey, Jr. in the epic biographical film. Izzard evokes Chaplin; he does not impersonate him. And he gives us a portrait of Chaplin that is rich, complex, and intimate. We see the genius, the charm, the discipline in some things and lack of discipline in others, the neediness, and the self-awareness. Lumley’s delivers devastating commentary with scrumptious bite, timed down to the nanosecond. Edward Hermann as Hearst and Kirsten Dunst (of “Spider-Man”) as Davies are also memorable.

Bogdanovich’s mistake is in thinking that everyone is naturally as fascinated with the story and the era as he is, and so he does not have to do any work to draw the audience into the story. For that reason, it all comes across as a little too precious and distant.

Parents should know that adultery is a theme of the movie and frequently discussed. A character is shot, possibly accidentally. Characters smoke, drink (illegally) and briefly use drugs. The movie has strong language and sexual situations (not explicit).

Families who see this movie should talk about how the 1920’s differ from current times – and how they were the same. Who is most like Hearst today? Why was Davies so important to Hearst? Why was she so important to Chaplin? What was important to her?

For more about Marion Davies, take a look at Captured on Film – the True Story of Marion Davies. If you are ever in the vicinity, don’t miss a visit to San Simeon, Hearst’s preposterously lavish mansion in the mountains, where Hearst and Davies presided over celebrity gatherings that included just about everyone in Hollywood.

The Brave Little Toaster

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:1988

In this movie, based on a story by science-fiction author Thomas M. Disch, a group of household appliances in a summer cottage, worried about their young master, leave home to go and find him, encountering many challenges and adventures along the way. It is exciting and fun, with a thrilling climax and delightful voice characterizations by Saturday Night Live stars Phil Hartman and Jon Lovitz. NOTE: Some very tense moments, with characters in peril.

The Blair Witch Project

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:1999

More conceptual art and marketing phenomenon than movie, “The Blair Witch Project” is poised to become the most profitable movie of all time. Directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick have learned from canny film- makers like Val Lewton and Alfred Hitchcock — people are much more scared by what they don’t see than by what they do see. The film-makers made a virtue of having no budget for special effects, and left everything to the audience’s grisly imagination. Like some sort of cinematic Rorschach test, as we watch this movie, we are each scared by whatever lurks in our subconscious. The movie’s plot is simply summarized: three film students go into the woods to make a movie about a local legend and never come home. A year later, their footage is found, and what we see is supposed to be what they left behind. Knowing the end from the beginning, the audience is left with 70 minutes of growing dread as the three students become increasingly more panicky and the events turn increasingly more creepy. Then it is over.

Teenagers have always loved scary movies, from the old William Castle movies up through “Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Scream” and “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.” On one level, they provide peer bonding — you have to be friends with someone you grabbed in a moment of terror and it is fun have that shared experience. On another level, there is something cathartic for teenagers about seeing this graphic representation of an uncontrollable id on the loose. It is important for parents to remember that tolerance for scariness is highly individual, and, especially for teens and younger kids, highly suggestible. In concrete terms, there is nothing really scary in this movie, and parents who do not object to profanity should not have a problem with allowing a kid who really wants to see it to go. They should make sure that those who do see it know — promotional tricks to the contrary — that it is entirely manufactured and fictional. And parents should not hesitate to provide cover to kids who seem uncertain about going, to give them the luxury of saying, “I really want to see it, but my parents would KILL me, and they are even scarier than the Blair Witch!”

The Black Stallion

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:1979

“Plot:

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